My Love-Hate Relationship with "The Circle"
I hate "the circle" today. It's just a painful reminder that I have SO far to go to adapt to this culture. I feel like a square peg being shoved into a round hole when I go to "the circle." Let me stop and explain what "the circle" is. The circle is literally a circular park like area that is open inside "the circle" but has trees and flowers and benches for socializing that surround the outside of it. It is usually cemented so it can be used for a variety of activities. Every complex I've ever lived in here in China has one. It's the "center" of social activities. It's where the kids all meet after school to play, where kung fu is practiced in the cool of the mornings, where bikes are ridden, soccer balls are kicked around, kites are flown, where the old ladies meet to gossip, and where lovers meet at night to make out (seriously). And it's where I go to learn more about this culture as well as to learn about myself and where, each time I am painfully reminded that I have not completely adapted yet. I leave the circle angry sometimes, frustrated some time and like a picked on 8 year old, saying to myself, "I hate the circle and I'm never coming back here." But, I secretly love the circle. I can not believe I just used the word "love" and "circle" in the same sentence, but it is the truth. I love the circle. I love that it brings to the surface cultural differences between my home culture and my host culture. As painful as those differences are. I love that I'm learning. I love that it's a tangible place for me to see how ethnocentric my own heart is. I love that it's a place to have my world broadened that there is more than one way of doing something and there are pro's and con's to my way as well as to their way of doing things. I love that it reminds me that I live in China. And most importantly I love that it reminds me that I am NOT home yet! This country I live in is not "home", nor is the country I came from. I am reminded of these things each and every time I go to the circle. So, even though I leave the circle every time saying "I'm never coming back here!" I do. I continue to go back and dialogue with the ladies who are "helping" me to become as Chinese as I can become considering that I was born and raised in Minnesota. See, I know it's a love-hate relationship because we live directly across from the circle. In fact, I can see the circle (all of it) from my kitchen window. So, I often times will stand at the window and the part of me that has learned to love Chinese people and the part of me who longs to build community in this culture gets excited and goes through all the trouble that it is to get 3 kids 5 years old and under ready to go outside (socks, potty time, shoes, bikes, potty time again, trikes, sidewalk chalk, sunscreen, last potty call, stroller, etc) so that I can make it to the circle before the sun gets too hot and everybody goes inside. And I am usually genuinely excited to see my "friends" when we arrive. But somewhere between when we arrive and when we leave this relationship goes sour. Either myself or my kids unintentionally culturally "offend" somebody or we are offended and it usually spirals downward pretty fast from there. I think by definition it is a "dysfunctional" relationship and pretty tumultuous at best. I can LOVE the circle and do all that I have to do to get us there and within 30 seconds after arriving be so incredibly fed up with the circle that I take my kids and go elsewhere to play. On the good days, I can listen to what comes at me and sift through it for truth and apply some changes. . . but on bad days I just gather up my flock and go somewhere else to play. Whether this be right or wrong I don't know but it's my way of coping. So, today we started on the outside of the circle and all was well. I even had the thought, "I love bringing the kids to play in the circle." But we sort of worked our way (with bikes and bubbles) from the outside ring of the circle towards the center of the circle. We were doing great "the circle" and me until the kids and I reached the center of the circle. This is where there were some older ladies practicing their dancing. They had flags and drums and there were some other kids playing in the center area too. It was here in the center that our relationship took a quick turn downward today. Hudson was culturally offended by a kid and in return he offended the grandfather who was caring for him. Then the grandfather offended me. . . all the while I was trying to teach Hudson how to interact (and not offend) Chinese playmates. About that time. the dancing ladies turned up the music L-O-U-D so that they could "perform" for those watching from the outside of the circle. I almost said outloud (but I didn't) "I HATE the circle!" As I was leading the kids out of the circle and putting a "healthy boundary" between the circle and me. . . I realized that the circle is my best place of cultural emersion and I learn the most, offend the most, and am offended the most the closer and closer I get to the center of the circle. So, dysfunctional relationship or not, I will keep on spending time in the circle and hoping and praying that we work something out that is a little less up and down, the circle and me. I love/hate you today Circle.
Labels: cultural Circle